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Running Scared

This Page written by: Man Machine & Netrunner

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RAD Inspection

A man-made mountain of dead metal, copper-coloured and stained by acid rain; thousands upon thousands of windows glowing gold in the dusk.

Absent-mindedly, Brandt half-watched the approaching Tyrell Pyramid which by now filled the entire spinner windscreen. He toyed with a half-smoked cigarillo, eager to get out of the spinner and take a smoke. A stocky man who looked like a sack of potatoes in his wrinkled trench coat. He had a doleful, bulldog face; world-weary eyes that never opened wide even in surprise; fat, watery lips which were usually twisted in a crooked, humourless smile. A demeanour that told you, "Take a hike!" and meant it.

Brandt glanced at the spinner driver. During the whole trip, the man hadn't said a single word. All black leather, shining chrome and dense silence. The radiant windows of the gigantic corporate complex reflected like a thousand burning eyes on the policeman's Plexiglas visor.

The radio crackled and a man with a South Carolina accent inquired, "Police niner-eight-niner, this is Tyrell Approach Control. You're entering Tyrell airspace, radar contact point-five miles west. How can we assist you?"

The driver answered in a resolute voice, "Tyrell Approach Control, this is police niner-eight-niner. We request landing permission. RAD inspection, priority one."

The radio remained silent, except for the usual static. The Tyrell air controller finally answered hesitantly, "Eh, that's a negative, niner-eight-niner. You've chosen a most inconvenient day for an inspection. The directors in charge are engaged in ... eh ... critical managerial procedures."

"I bet my ass," Brandt grumbled. He turned to the policeman, "I'll take it from here, officer."

"Tyrell Approach Control, this is Inspector Brandt from the Replicant and Advanced Automaton Department, badge number RAD-78791150. I demand that you give us landing permission at once and put your facilities at our disposal, in accordance with The Law of Advanced Automation of 2013, section 10, sub-sections 5 and 6. Do it, cowboy, or there will be hell to pay."

Moments passed as static played on the speakers again.

"Spinner niner-eight-niner, you have landing permission. The wind is zero-seven-zero at six, and the altimeter two-niner-niner-two. Spec planning pad Red-two, spec Green sector automated approach."

"Damn straight!" Brandt said and stuck the cigarillo stub between his watery lips. Even the almighty Tyrell couldn't refuse a RAD inspection. There had been corporate lobbying to get the law diluted of course, but the occasional Off-World rebellions by renegade replicants over the years had ensured that fearful politicians had made the Advanced Automation laws more robust instead. Even to the point of banning the use of advanced replicants on Earth altogether.

The driver floated the spinner into a tight turn and rapid descent. Unnecessary to use a quick-drop landing here, the police driver was either showing off or bored - Brandt guessed the latter. With an assured reverse thrust at the last moment, the spinner softly kissed the landing pad.

Brandt, unphased, popped the door and eased himself out of the low seat. The old, steel lighter already in his hand, he wasted no time in firing up the half-cigarillo, sucking its delicious, poisonous smoke deep into his chest. His lungs, already corroded by the toxic atmosphere, burned with the familiar bite of nicotine. Breathing out, he observed the welcoming party through a cloud of blue smoke.

"Inspector Brandt!" A Tyrell technocrat approached him, an old acquaintance: Byron Joseph. Long, confident strides; slick shark skin suit; pale blue, possibly psychotic eyes; corporate smartass mode switched to "On" - Brandt didn't like him, never had. Two boot-lickers in stiff suits accompanied Joseph in a servile manner. Behind them, in the dark depths of the spinner bay, electronic eyes on spidery, mechanical arms watched them silently.

"What an unexpected surprise. How very inconvenient. We had a thorough RAD inspection only two…"

"Stop bullshitting me, Tyro boy. You know the drill. Co-operate or I'll send two hundred Feds up your ass." Brandt blew some blue smoke in the direction of Joseph. He blinked. A moment of threatening silence, and then he smiled; it was anything but a warm smile. He looked like a nuclear charge ready to detonate any second.

"Then, how can we assist you, Inspector?"

"Your new product line, 'Autumn Mist'."

"All specifications have been cleared by RAD. I can assure you: all our papers are in order."

"I bet. DNA, bone marrow, brain implants, psycho-programs, conditioning schemes, the whole kit - spit it out." Brandt thought he saw the shadow of a drop of perspiration on Joseph's temple; maybe it was wishful thinking.

"Inspector… 'Autumn Mist' is an army order, a military intelligence project which passes under the State Security Act. Unfortunately, I must dismiss your request."

Brandt's ever-present, crooked smile became even more crooked.

"Would you bet your replicant licence the Feds will care?"

Joseph gave Brandt an icy stare. The sort of stare that chilled the hearts of Joseph's subordinates when they hadn't performed to his high expectations and were about to feel the storm of Joseph's cold anger.

Brandt blew a smoke ring into Byron's face. "Shall we proceed Mister Joseph?"

Byron Joseph was no fool and he recognised this was a battle to be fought by more subtle means. The designer smile that had momentarily faded reappeared, "Certainly Mister Brandt. I am sure we can accommodate your requests. Please, follow me."

Joseph turned and walked briskly towards the elevator, his colleagues hurrying after him. Brandt strolled on after, the silent spinner cop two steps behind. Joseph wasn't going anywhere without him; he didn't need to play Joseph's game. Brandt had been dealing with technocrats for decades and knew all the powerplays. Joseph was good and could obfuscate with the best of them, but Brandt always got what he wanted in the end. And what he really wanted, what he had been wanting for years, was a way to bring down the Tyrell Corporation. Their lawyers had always covered every angle. So far. But Brandt felt something different in the air now. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something had changed. He sensed his long quest was entering the end-game. He needed to keep focused on the moves.

They were waiting for him at the elevator, the incrementing floor number on the display showing it was already on its way. The numbers stopped clicking over and the elevator doors opened with a sigh. Inside the brightly lit, slightly claustrophobic cabin stood another old acquaintance of Brandt: Michael Lee. Joseph reacted in a most unexpected way: a barely audible but definitely nervous snigger.

Surprised, Brandt took the cigarillo from his lips and said to himself:




Option 1 - Something

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Date: 2002-07-08 22:00